Privilege Blog

The Evolution Of Family, Or, Saturday Morning at 11:03am

I hope your Thanksgiving, if you celebrate, shone.

For the first time ever my family gathered neither at my mother’s house nor my father’s, with what we are now calling The Level One and Level Two adults. By which I mean we four siblings and our partners, our children and their partners. Most of us are adults, hence the term.

In this configuration, we are in some ways a whole new family.

As any of you longtime readers know, and maybe all of you because although I try to respect other people’s privacy I have not been shy about sharing my own experience, it’s been a rough several years. Among other things, while it’s a true gift to have parents for so long, there’s a cost of sorts. We had built whole societies, if you like, along with core mores and protocols, decades old, around our parents. But maybe that’s true even when you lose parents early. Probably so.

New society time. Built, as one does, on the remains of the old. Sometimes with wrecking equipment, sometimes with fabrics of intelligence, care, and love. Rubble and upholstery. Now let me speak for myself alone. I will always make mistakes in intimate groups. Impersonal groups are OK because years in corporate life taught me something. Intimate duos, or trios, are OK because I can manage a few inputs and outputs at once. But I guarantee I will struggle with managing multiple concurrent intimate connections. You can imagine the balance of wrecking ball and velvet yourself.

Related, I am coming to suspect that a good society requires not only a well-woven fabric, to extend the metaphor, but a, well, should we call it a sewing machine? No, too fast, too programmed. Maybe a needle and thread? Maybe just spit and fingernails. The sole requirement is that everyone should be comfortable and careful with the device.

So, as in child-rearing, maybe the society of adult family is about rupture and repair, rather than a fragile avoidance of even the slightest fraying. Heaven forbid a rip. “Let ‘er rip” takes on a whole new meaning.

Am I too optimistic about mistakes? I’m always too optimistic. But in a society, someone skeptical will provide balance. And even the skeptical can engage in repair, if everyone’s committed to that careful use of devices.

Right. I’ve gone right off the metaphoric cliff. From my family, to yours however you define and structure it, I send you all the good will in the world. Have a  very good weekend. All thoughts welcome, metaphors not remotely required.


19 Responses

  1. Spouse says it’s hard when the booster rockets fall off and you are in orbit on your own. He is right but the alternative is a crash and burn, so… Sending good will back to you (and yours!)

    1. Exactly, exactly, exactly. To continue the excellent metaphor, and space can be beautiful, if you’ve done your construction correctly, or terribly, terribly cold.

  2. Not that I’m looking for rupture or mistakes, but repairing them shows people they’re worth the effort. It shows us we ourselves are worth the effort. Some of the most exquisite needlework samples out there are repairs.

    Adding my happy wishes —

    1. I agree. Nobody wants the ruptures, but knowing how and having the heart and taking the time to fix them is so much a part of a strong family. Thank you for the happy wishes:)

  3. When family gathers much humor is required. I try not to take anything anybody says or does to seriously. It is just another Thanksgiving on the books. As usual, I hosted because nobody else wants to . There are always, ruffled feathers; it is a given but if everyone still speaks, I say it is a success. Happy belated Thanksgiving. I tell people, next year will be even better. We all laugh. Humor is important.

    1. So, one more thing, set the bar low! Or at least at a realistic level! We’re still talking, hooray! Next year will be better, or, maybe next year will be worse but we’re here in good faith and intent so we will be back. I hope everyone appreciates your labor.

  4. We gathered with Cousins. They lost both Mom and Dad last year. One changed their appearance so much it was freaky. It was like the uncle about 50 years younger. The conversations had the same ring as they did when Auntie and Uncle were alive. . somethings were different in a good way. The Boss Cousin boss, told one of the others she didn’t want to talk about a particular topic when he started baiting everyone about it. Good for her. I think the thing about the rubble you speak of is to remember that it is not sacred.

    1. It is not sacred. It is not sacred for its history. It’s a living creation, and sometimes we resemble our past and sometimes we push back on it.

  5. Thanksgiving is our most interesting tradition in that though it seemed frozen and unchanging, it was always evolving. I just didn’t have the eyes to see it. Long-standing foods were were gradually replaced when the person who relished it was no longer there. Kids eventually moved from the card table in the hall to the big table. New family members brought with them their favorite foods which were new to the rest. Quality of presentation remained particularly high: candles, best china, holiday serve ware, special centerpiece, etc. Conversations blended old stories with new insights, getting everybody in, past and present. Down time before pie is consumed to be spent on a walk or a game or sipping coffee or wine with side chatter and laughter ebbing and flowing in all directions. What I love most about this holiday is we are all just there in that moment, gathered around the table for this one elaborate meal. No stresses demanded by the expectations of gift-giving, no pretenses, just us.

    1. M, I cannot imagine a better Thanksgiving than yours. It feels like the Platonic ideal to me, made even more lovely by how much you notice and love it.

  6. What a beautiful post. I, and my extended sometimes piecemeal families, are trying to work out new configurations, often with many pitfalls and mistakes. I’ve not always been of help, but it strikes me, that difficult times have really played a role in shaping a stronger and gentler approach to priorities.

    1. Mardel, thank you so much! New configurations can be so tricky. I agree, that if we’re diligent and lucky the difficult times can shape us for the better.

  7. From one always optimist to another – yes! There will always be balance. The optimism, or even just the available smile of the optimist, can lighten the load.
    We did something new this year that I highly recommend: “what are you thankful for” but with categories. We did interpersonal, your body, animals, and media. It was really revealing and interesting, and kept us going for most of the meal in the excellent space of appreciation and thankfulness.

    1. I love the idea of categories! Extra added benefit might that people won’t just go around the table saying they are grateful to be there. A beautiful sentiment, but not a great conversation prompt LOL. Thank you, fellow optimist!

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